938346_5The Settlers is a real time strategy (RTS) gaming series that has evolved quite a bit over the past two decades. Gameloft’s The Settlers as a standalone game brings a slightly different take on RTS to the iPhone/iPod Touch platform that for the most part delivers, but also bringing a few frustrations along the way including the omission of a freeplay mode. Ultimately, The Settlers is a solid experience and good introduction for newcomers to the series.

As with any typical RTS game, the objective is to build a community, establishing a means of income, develop a powerful military, and expand territories. The Settlers, however, is less about tactical micromanagement and more about strategic planning. In many ways, The Settlers is a game focused on urban planning where the placement and construction of buildings play heavily in your success. Unlike many of today’s RTS games, direct control of individual or groups of units is limited. You literally establish a virtual society where your vision will set it down the path to success or failure. This premise alone makes The Settlers worth considering especially for newcomers to the series.

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As expected, Gameloft has done an impressive job with visuals in The Settlers. From the buildings to the animations and actions of individuals, The Settlers provides an enjoyable viewing experience. Even the random fluttering butterflies, foraging forest animals or the crashing waves seem to bring just the right amount of personality. To further the immersive experience, the sound effects are particularly well done from the birds chirping to battle cries. One minor issue is the soundtrack, which is short and noticeably irritating when it loops, although you can play your own music if you choose.

missionsThe Settlers consists of 4 tribes— Roman, Viking, Mayan and Dark Tribe —each with a series of mission-based campaigns. The most extensive set is the 12-mission campaign against Dark Tribe where you play as each of the tribes in campaigns to conquer them. Unfortunately, a free play mode isn’t included, though the length of included missions should take significant time to complete, and unlocked missions can be replayed at any time. Auto save is also included along with 5 save slots which is a necessity for a game of this length and depth.

The game boasts an intimidating 35-screen help section which is your first indication of the great depth in The Settlers. These screens are categorized into 8 sections: Buildings, Goods Flow, New Colony, Settlers, Warriors, War Machines, Alcohol, and Magic. The game's tutorial does a good job walking you through the basics. Each mission is introduced with a cut screen providing a story background followed by objectives which are well thought out.

With all that it’s involved in The Settlers, the user interface is adequately laid out even though it may feel cluttered for some. Like most RTS games, certain things need to happen in a certain way before being able to do something else. For example, to tap into resources such as gold, you’ll need to recruit geologists, send them out to survey a site, build a gold mine, a gold smelter to process, and then a weaponsmith to make tools and weapons. In many cases, you’ll need to have tools made such as shovels and pickaxes to before The Settlers can proceed with their work.

sawmill

Building and placing structures is rather simple. Once a structure is selected from the Building menu, a series of dots will appear on the screen. These are the locations on which the new structure can be located. It’s here that you can watch the little tribesmen work, and the animation really makes it interesting to watch. Of course, you can also fast forward through the process if you want to the speed up the game. Once a structure is placed, statistics can be viewed by tapping on it. For example, a gold smelting building will show how much is produced, while a tower will indicate the number of troops.

The Settlers has a different dynamic which you will either love or hate when it comes to the moving settlers since many are not under the player’s control. When a unit is controllable by a player, they can be selected either by tapping, drawing a square using a pinch motion around a group of settlers, or accessing the Find Settler button. Once selected, tapping on a specific location will create a flag which serves as the meeting point, and the selected settlers will move accordingly. One of the small issues is that settlers you control will tend to revert back to what they were doing no matter where you want them to go, so control is a relative term. Some characters such as the carrier, digger and builder automatically perform their tasks and cannot be controlled. For those new to the game, the limited amount of control can be frustrating especially since these settlers can move rather slowly.

Gameloft has provided this tutorial video to show how to play the game:

Battles can be fun as you recruit and train troops and then watch the ensuing fight. But keep in mind, beyond directing the direction of troop movements, there are no tactical decisions to be made during a battle. Besides magic, there are several war machines available based on the tribe. These include Roman catapults, Mayan firespitters, and Viking Warships, which create visually eye catching damage during battles.

After initially not being too high on the gameplay, I found myself enjoying the game more as I progressed. Personally, I prefer the ability to control the movements of the people in my virtual community, and can see this being an issue for those who fall in the same camp. Long time Settlers fans however point out that such micromanagement was never the focus of the early versions of the game.

Because the game is focused on strategic planning and less so on micromanagement, the enjoyment level may vary based on your personal preferences as you’ll spend a fair share of time watching rather doing. As a result, I found the game can be a mix of fun and frustration. Regardless of your previous experience, however, the game does offer a solid and deep experience with beautiful graphics. The missions and the maps are elaborate enough to offer hours of play, bringing enough to separate itself from other games in the genre.

App Store Link: The Settlers, $6.99

TouchArcade Rating

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  • JazzFlight

    Looks like it's 6.99 to me.

  • JazzFlight

    Looks like it's 6.99 to me.

  • Luca

    The settlers is the Best Game i have ever played on the iPhone. I still can't believe how good it is!

  • Luca

    The settlers is the Best Game i have ever played on the iPhone. I still can't believe how good it is!

  • Poco

    Was 4.99, then increase to 6.99. Without freeplay mode I am not going to buy this.

    • wegmans

      Hear hear!! I just want skirmishes... i've never been a fan of story mode

  • Poco

    Was 4.99, then increase to 6.99. Without freeplay mode I am not going to buy this.

    • wegmans

      Hear hear!! I just want skirmishes... i've never been a fan of story mode

  • http://www.hbdia.com IzzyNobre

    Great review as per usual, Albie.

    And guys, you can replay any already beaten levels, so it's not like there's NO replay value.

    • Big Albie

      Thanks Izzy. While there isn't a freeplay mode, I wouldn't let that be a dealbreaker for those on the fence. As it is, the game offers hours of play, which is by no means easy to get through.

  • http://www.hbdia.com IzzyNobre

    Great review as per usual, Albie.

    And guys, you can replay any already beaten levels, so it's not like there's NO replay value.

    • Big Albie

      Thanks Izzy. While there isn't a freeplay mode, I wouldn't let that be a dealbreaker for those on the fence. As it is, the game offers hours of play, which is by no means easy to get through.

  • http://Inginious.BlogSpot.com Inginious

    Play your own music?? How?? I would really love this option since i have the Age of Empires soundtrack :0)

    Please, tell me how to do this because i see no such option in the sounds menu, and if i play a game and then start the game, the music stops :0(

    • ja

      run ipod app, minimalize it, then run settlers :P

      • http://vietnam2cambodia.com Bimbo

        I tried to get the ipod app to run in the background but it doesn't do it for me. As soon as I open 'Settlers' my music fades away... And can't see any options in the sound menu. Any tips?

  • http://Inginious.BlogSpot.com Inginious

    Play your own music?? How?? I would really love this option since i have the Age of Empires soundtrack :0)

    Please, tell me how to do this because i see no such option in the sounds menu, and if i play a game and then start the game, the music stops :0(

    • ja

      run ipod app, minimalize it, then run settlers :P

      • http://vietnam2cambodia.com Bimbo

        I tried to get the ipod app to run in the background but it doesn't do it for me. As soon as I open 'Settlers' my music fades away... And can't see any options in the sound menu. Any tips?

  • illich

    To bad they took settlers 4 of the series..
    It's just too much focus on the campaign and achieving specific goals instead of just building and building.
    I really do hope there'll be a freeplay-modus!!

  • illich

    To bad they took settlers 4 of the series..
    It's just too much focus on the campaign and achieving specific goals instead of just building and building.
    I really do hope there'll be a freeplay-modus!!

  • Trogador

    What the hell? 6.99? I'm not gonna pay $2 more just because I wanted to read a review first ._.

    • jimmysck

      Well said. Now Gameloft, another sales pls!

  • Trogador

    What the hell? 6.99? I'm not gonna pay $2 more just because I wanted to read a review first ._.

    • jimmysck

      Well said. Now Gameloft, another sales pls!

  • http://www.mores.cc mores

    No mention of the price increase ... I find that rather strange, as if TA is trying to just ignore the fact.

    • arn

      what's to say? We changed the price in the story to reflect the current price. Apps frequently come out at discount launch sales. Rewards early adopters.

      arn

      • http://www.mores.cc mores

        Well, okay, I am not that knowledgeable when it comes to business practices in mobile gaming. I just didn't read any mention of a early adopters discount in the first review, and didn't see mention that this period is up in the second review so I thought it was a sneaky move :)

  • http://www.mores.cc mores

    No mention of the price increase ... I find that rather strange, as if TA is trying to just ignore the fact.

    • arn

      what's to say? We changed the price in the story to reflect the current price. Apps frequently come out at discount launch sales. Rewards early adopters.

      arn

      • http://www.mores.cc mores

        Well, okay, I am not that knowledgeable when it comes to business practices in mobile gaming. I just didn't read any mention of a early adopters discount in the first review, and didn't see mention that this period is up in the second review so I thought it was a sneaky move :)

  • Beeb

    I had the original The Settlers. I was hooked. I am glad to see that the game has stayed so similar to the original, the only difference that I can see is you can't order your settlers to have a priority on the resources they carry. Sure, no freeplay mode... but I'm in it for the battles, and you get plenty of them in all the campaigns so I'm not complaining. Personally I'd rate this as a must buy.

  • Beeb

    I had the original The Settlers. I was hooked. I am glad to see that the game has stayed so similar to the original, the only difference that I can see is you can't order your settlers to have a priority on the resources they carry. Sure, no freeplay mode... but I'm in it for the battles, and you get plenty of them in all the campaigns so I'm not complaining. Personally I'd rate this as a must buy.

  • abugida

    It should be mentioned that this is a port of The Settlers 4 for PC, released in 2001, with identical gameplay and missions, sans free-play and online-play, but with some additional background artwork. The missions provide tons of gameplay, and we will see if Gameloft will add the free play mode later.

    The price was probably raised after the game went number 1 in Germany and Gameloft realized the game should be worth more than the (recently released and somewhat similar) Settlers of Catan. It is still the biggest game franchise in Gemany (besides Anno), and as far as I know it's the first Settlers game in many years that wasn't widely panned for its bugs and pointless deviation from the core Settler gameplay (it's certainly much better than the DS version). Another excellent job from Gameloft!

  • abugida

    It should be mentioned that this is a port of The Settlers 4 for PC, released in 2001, with identical gameplay and missions, sans free-play and online-play, but with some additional background artwork. The missions provide tons of gameplay, and we will see if Gameloft will add the free play mode later.

    The price was probably raised after the game went number 1 in Germany and Gameloft realized the game should be worth more than the (recently released and somewhat similar) Settlers of Catan. It is still the biggest game franchise in Gemany (besides Anno), and as far as I know it's the first Settlers game in many years that wasn't widely panned for its bugs and pointless deviation from the core Settler gameplay (it's certainly much better than the DS version). Another excellent job from Gameloft!

  • fi2-shift

    Wow, this game takes like 700Mb of space in my iPod touch @.@.... I don't really know how can they put all those stuff in a compressed .IPA file of 225 Mb!

  • fi2-shift

    Wow, this game takes like 700Mb of space in my iPod touch @.@.... I don't really know how can they put all those stuff in a compressed .IPA file of 225 Mb!

  • Jesse

    Actually it's $8.99. You heard me. $8.99.

  • Jesse

    Actually it's $8.99. You heard me. $8.99.

  • Noah

    This games s realy cool. but on the fourth and fith levals for the romans most of my mines stop working. There is fish bread and meat at them and plenty of workers avaluble but my mines just dont produce anything except for one or two of them. Some one PLZ help me!

    • Eddy

      get more carriers maybe the miners already produced a lot of product and needs it to be taken away, waste your resources!!!!! happened to me too....

    • Tendriana

      I am having the same problem. And no Eddy, it's not a carrier issue. The mines are full of all three foods... but they just won't produce anything. like, 1 coal will come out of a mine every few minutes at best. It is immediately carried away. But at the beginning of the level, a fully stocked mine would be spitting out coal like crazy. Do the mines "run out" of coal/gold. And if so, do you just have to build new mines? I have tried that, but it seems even the new mines won't produce. I have had the priests come over and "replenish resources" but it didn't do anything.

  • Noah

    This games s realy cool. but on the fourth and fith levals for the romans most of my mines stop working. There is fish bread and meat at them and plenty of workers avaluble but my mines just dont produce anything except for one or two of them. Some one PLZ help me!

    • Eddy

      get more carriers maybe the miners already produced a lot of product and needs it to be taken away, waste your resources!!!!! happened to me too....

  • Mike

    When will they ever update this game?

  • Mike

    When will they ever update this game?

  • Derek

    Love this game but it crashes A LOT. Got to level 9 on Dark Tribe – a real problem with the Harbours moving items from one island to another – after a while any attempt to move, delete etc anything to do with a harbour just causes a crash. Restarted 3 times now and giving up. Very frustrating. Guess I will never get to the end.

  • Derek

    Love this game but it crashes A LOT. Got to level 9 on Dark Tribe – a real problem with the Harbours moving items from one island to another – after a while any attempt to move, delete etc anything to do with a harbour just causes a crash. Restarted 3 times now and giving up. Very frustrating. Guess I will never get to the end.